Tuesday, October 6, 2009

high maintenance

"A decision to involve the author actively in the translation process is not one to be taken lightly, and his or her offer to ‘help out’ or to ‘take a look at the manuscript’ should not be accepted merely out of courtesy. Authors are as individual in temperament and personality as other human beings, if not more so, and there are ‘easy’ authors and, so to speak, ‘high maintenance’ authors. More than one translation project has foundered because of excessive authorial input (read interference).


There are authors like Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., who display a commendable awareness of the formidable tasks inherent in literary translation and have only good things to say about those who labor to reproduce their works in other languages.


The potential problem arises when an author thinks he or she is sufficiently fluent in the TL [target language] to judge the translation and even to propose changes in it. (...)

A cautionary tale: a certain Continental author, convinced despite never having written directly in English that his command of the language was beyond reproach, insisted in his contract on having final cut on the translation. Notwithstanding his unavailability for consultation during the actual translation process, which lasted almost a year, he nevertheless minutely pored over the finished manuscript, finally declaring it ‘amateurish and unacceptable’. To the consternation of publisher and translator alike, he demanded either a completely new draft or a different version by another translator. The publisher, faced with an unexpected doubling of translation costs and an inevitable delay in bringing the project to fruition, opted to cut his losses; the book was never published in English."

Clifford E. Landers (2001). Literary Translation: A Practical Guide. Multilingual Matters.

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